Archive for January, 2012
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I’m a huge fan of oldschool Final Fantasy games. Any numbered games X or prior are great, but IV, VI, VII, and VIII are my favorites by far. Amusingly, I’ve never really had a taste for western RPGs of the video game variety, such as the Elder Scrolls series, or Mass Effect games. They much more closely emulate my one true love–tabletop games–but I think there’s a sort of “uncanny valley” effect for me. I like linear games, and I like games with true tactical infinity, but games which emulate tactical infinity without actually giving me infinite options can just be frustrating.
I think it was on my second or third play-through of Final Fantasy IV when I had this idea. There’s a point, about halfway through the game, after you steal the airship from the evil city-state of Baron. The heroes must fly into a giant crater which connects the surface world to the vast underground realm of the dwarves. Almost immediately you find yourself in the middle of a pitched battle between the Baronian airship navy, and the land-based dwarven tanks.
The tanks make a few more appearances throughout the game, and the idea intrigued me. I am apparently not alone in this, because both the Warcraft and Warhammer franchises employ dwarves with tanks. Perhaps it’s because the race themselves–short, squat, and unimaginably tough–fundamentally resemble tanks. Whatever the reason, I decided that dwarven tanks would make a great addition to my D&D games. However, I’m not a huge fan of including technology in fantasy games. It can be a fun twist for a setting, but as a general rule I like the most advanced technology in my games to be a crossbow. So the challenge was to create a dwarven tank which didn’t rely on technology, but also did not rely on an excessive use of magic, since dwarves would probably find distasteful. This is what I came up with. Lali-ho!
The Dwarven Tank
The main body of the dwarven tank resembles a boxy steel shell, longer than it is wide. Along the bottom edge of the shell are small steel sheets, attached to the shell by hinges. When the metal sheets are raised, one can see that there are four large iron wheels supporting the shell, and that it otherwise has no bottom to it. On top of the shell, in the center of its surface area, is a large flat disc, and from that disc protrudes a long cylindrical barrel, 7ft long. On both ends of the long shell are small protrusions, the purpose of which is not readily apparent.
As large as the dwarven tank may seem from the outside, within things are positively cramped. Each tank employs crew of 11 of the strongest dwarves available. Six dwarves serve as “movers,” two dwarves serve as backup movers, one dwarf serves as spotter, one as driver, and one as hammermaster. Since the tank has no bottom, all eleven dwarves must walk in unison with the tank’s movements, which is surprisingly difficult for a large number of dwarves to do within such a cramped space.
The six movers are divided three to each side, where they take hold of sturdy bars mounted into the inner-walls of the steel shell. Their task is simple: push in unison, either forward or backward, according to the instructions of the driver. The six movers are rotated in shifts with the two backup movers, to ensure that no dwarf ever spends too long at the strenuous task of moving the behemoth dwarven tank.
The two protrusions at either end of the tank are periscopes, which are used by the spotter to give instructions both to the driver, and to the hammermaster. The tank completely lacks windows , or openings of any sort save the flaps at the bottom of the tank, so without the spotter and his periscopes, the dwarven tank crew would be blind. The driver stands at one end of the tank, where a number of controls are mounted. A wheel for steering, various pulleys to raise the metal flaps to help the tank move over obstacles.
The hammermaster mans the gun, or the “Shock-Put” as the dwarves call it. He uses a pair of heavy cranks to adjust the vertical angle from 0 to 80 degrees, and the horizontal angle up to 180 degrees. These cranks are adjusted according to instructions from the spotter. Once the gun is aimed correctly, the two movers currently off-duty take one of the “shock rocks” from the large bin on the opposite end of the tank from the driver. The shock rock is then loaded into the bottom of the shock put, which is then sealed.
The seal of the shock-put holds the shock rock in place while the hammermaster prepares his swing. When the crew is ready to fire, the hammermaster takes up a large two-handed warhammer, and strikes the the bottom of the shock-put, where a piston is mounted. The piston has a special permanent explosive rune enchanted on the inside, which strikes the shock-rock with all the force the hammermaster can transfer into it. The resulting explosion, which varies in strength based on the force with which piston is struck, sends the shock-rock careening out of the shock put at fantastic speeds, often flying as far as five or seven hundred feet when struck by a skilled hammermaster.
Most dwarven tank groups also carry a small supply of explosive shock rocks, which are themselves covered in explosive runes. These projectiles cause significantly more damage, but are difficult to create, and thus not used as frequently.
It is said that once, long ago, a great dwarven king built a mithril tank which, due to its relatively light frame, could move twice as fast as most dwarven tanks. However, due to the rarity of mithril, this tale is often dismissed as a fabrication.
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I’m obsessed with Comma, Blank_’s Google Analytics profile. Fiddling around with it, learning new things about my traffic, and watching the ways in which my readership has grown in the last few months tickles me pink. And more than anything else, I obsess over are search terms. Knowing what people are looking for when they find your site is not only useful, but it can be gods damned hilarious. Someone searching for “bar0n’ika” ended up finding Colorful Characters 4: Baron Ika of the Treebreaker Tribe, and someone searching for “erotic art inspired by the dungeons & dragons monster manual” found a scan from the 3.5 Monster Manual which I once uploaded but never used.
Hits from unusual search terms like those listed above tend to be rare. Most people find Comma, Blank_ by searching for much more mundane terms: dungeon door, elf archer, orc ranger, etc. One unusual term, however, is actually quite common. In fact, it is the number one search term which leads people to visit this site: “Succubi in Succubus town.”
The page these folks are finding, of course, is my post from early December entitled “Succubi Deserve More,” which I think is among some of my better work. I’m only too happy that people are finding it. But I can’t help but wonder why in the world so many people are searching for this term in the first place. I tried searching it myself, and can find no reference to any kind of succubus town whatsoever. Mostly it’s just novels by a woman named Nina Harper. I would think that, given the frequency with which the term is searched for, that it was an actual reference to something which could be found online. But no such luck.
In discussing this oddity with some of my friends, we got to joking about what a succubus town might look like. Which is when it hit upon me that I should actually start taking notes on our conversation, because writing a post about a town populated entirely by succubi sounds awesome.
The City of Al Uzzara
Colloquially known as “Succubus Town,” or just “Sex City,” Al Uzzara is an opulent metropolis located on the 570th layer of the Abyss; Malcanthet’s Domain. Unlike many parts of the abyss it is generally considered a pleasant place to visit. The entire permanent population of Al Uzzara are succubi and incubi, and within the city limits these otherwise evil creatures seem intent on nothing but making their guests comfortable and happy during their stay.
Unfortunately, no one is able to truthfully explain precisely how their stay was made pleasant. A permanent and powerful enchantment on the city of Al Uzzara causes any non-succubus who visits to completely forget anything which happened there within an hour of their departure. All they are left with is a vague sensation of how they felt about their stay.
On the surface, Al Uzzara is a place where any being can satisfy their carnal urges easily and cheaply. Every inn doubles as a brothel, and every eating establishment is accompanied by a burlesque show. Demons are the city’s most common patrons, but beings of many cultures which view planar travel as commonplace visit Al Uzzara frequently. Even humanoids are a common enough sight here, though few creatures of a goodly alignment ever willingly travel to the abyss.
The succubic residents of Al Uzzara happily alter their mannerisms, their forms, even their gender, so as to appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of their visitors. And succubi are very good at determining a creature’s innermost desires. The guile and trickery which is known throughout the multiverse to be synonymous with succubi seems conspicuously absent here. Most who venture here become overwhelmed by the decadent possibilities to dwell on that curiosity. Those few who do look beyond the surface of Al Uzzara quickly find the natives to be much less friendly. If they are unlucky enough to actually discover anything, they may never return from the city of sex.
In truth, the city is, literally, a breeding ground of demonic soldiers and slaves. The succubi of Al Uzzara entice their male visitors to engage in as much debauched sex as possible, allowing the succubi to give birth to demon spawn which may then be sold as troops for the generals of the blood war, or as slaves to anyone who desires them. Female visitors are likewise encouraged to entertain their wildest desires, only to then be drugged, and have their gestation periods magically accelerated. When they awake they will never know what evil’s they’ve helped bring into existence.
Al Uzzara is a walled city, with many high towers and sky bridges overlooking the beautiful, but deadly, gardens of the 570th layer of the abyss. It is divided into a number of districts designed to appeal to a variety of archetypical sexual predilections. There are posh pleasure palaces, and lascivious libraries. A district of seedy back alley debauchery, and one of not-so-chaste religious figures–though none of the churches here are consecrated of course. There are even areas of the city for those who like to dominate, or be dominated by others. The city’s main roads are designed to allow visitors to travel directly to an area which suits their desires, without passing into an area they may not want to visit.
The Nexus: All throughout Al Uzzara are hidden doors. Every bedchamber, every harem, every place where a visitor might think themselves alone (save their companionship) is accessible from the nexus. It is a circular stone chamber, buried deep beneath the deepest basements of the city above. Seven ascending ramps spiral outward from the bottom of the chamber. Every few feet along the wall of the chamber is a portal, showing a view of the chamber it leads to. Walking through the portal causes one to appear in some innocuous place out of sight of the room’s occupants. The Nexus is used both to carry female guests to the birthing chamber, and to secretly switch out a male guest’s companions, so that his previous companions may visit the birthing chamber.
The Birthing Chamber: A short hallway at the bottom of the Nexus leads to the Birthing Chamber. Succubi, inherently capable of controlling their own reproductive process, visit here only to drop off their spawn in cages to be sold later. For the non-succubi who are brought here, there are a rows of comfortable couches attended by succubi particularly adept in sorcerous magics. They accelerate the gestation periods of these females, dull their pain and heal any damage caused by the birthing, then call on others to carry them back through the nexus while their young are prepared for sale.
The Horns: The horns are the two tallest buildings in Al Uzzara. They are conically shaped–wide at the base, and rising to a point at the top. This is the only visible portion of the city which visitors are not allowed to access, and in fact, it can only be accessed by one with the ability to fly. The right tower is the seat of the city’s government. Malcanthet reigns supreme over Al Uzzara, as she does over the entire 570th layer, but she rarely visits this city. The rule of Al Uzzara is largely left to a council of 30 succubi, whose primary concerns are drawing willing victims to the city, and bartering deals with those who wish to purchase the slaves the city produces. The left tower is home to the city’s enforcers, collectively known as biters. Violence and conflict are rare in Al Uzzara, and when they occur there is normally a succubus on hand who can easily handle the situation themselves. The biters primarily concern themselves with watching for any who have remained in the city too long, or who seem to be paying too much attention to how the city is run.
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This week’s artifact duom spear, also from my Ascendant Crusade campaign, is again illustrated by my ladyfriend. You should check out more of her art on her DeviantArt page.
Artifact Duom Spear
The Duom spear, introduced in the Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 supplement Arms and Equipment Guide is a longspear with a standard spearhead, as well as two blades curved so that they point backward along the shaft. The weapon has reach, allowing you to strike opponents 10 feet away with it. Those proficient with the duom can also attack adjacent foes with the reversed heads using a practiced “reverse thrust.” Apply a -2 penalty on the attack roll if you use the duom to attack a second, adjacent opponent in the same round you attacked the first opponent. Duom spears cost about 20gp, deal 1d8 damage for medium creatures, with a critical multiplier of 3 on a natural twenty. They weigh 8 pounds on average, and deal piercing damage.
(Main Blade)1d8 + 5 (Piercing)(20/x3)(10ft.)
(Reverse Blades) 1d8 + 5 (Piercing)(20/x3)(5ft.)
(Shaft) 1d6 + 5 (Bludgeoning)(20/x2)(5ft.)
At Will- Unhallow, cast by thrusting Wallcraft’s Offering into the ground for two minutes. (Pathfinder Core Rulebook Pg. 363)
At Will – Animate Dead, cast by letting the droplets of blood from Wallcraft’s Offering fall onto a viable corpse for 1 full round. (PFCR Pg. 241)
- Though Duoms are not made for throwing, Wallcraft’s Offerings magically gives it a throwing range increment of 20ft.
- At will it can be summoned to its owners hands.
- At will, the blood dripping from The Blind Empress’ hand can create a cloud of red mist around the spear’s blade, granting a +5 to bluff checks when attempting to feint.
- Once per day, The Blind Empress’ discarded eye can guide the spear in magical flight. A target who is within the sight of the thrower must be selected, and the thrower must speak the command word “May Vecna make my aim true!” Wallcraft’s Offering then flies through the air at a speed of 120ft per round, following the target even around corners, and up to one mile distant from the thrower. After either hitting or missing the target, or reaching 1 mile of distance, Wallcraft’s Offering is magically summoned back to the thrower’s hands.
- Wallcraft’s Offering grants the wielder a +10 on Spellcraft, Knowledge(Arcana), and knowledge (Religion) checks.
- When attempting to recruit followers of Vecna, the wielder is granted +5 to their leadership score. All normal leadership restrictions apply.
- The character wielding Wallcraft’s Offering is treated as one level higher for the purposes of determining how many undead they can control.
- Wallcraft’s Offering can be used as a holy symbol by followers of Vecna.
- Wallcraft’s Offering radiates a strong aura of Necromancy and Evil.
The blade’s shaft is made of a polished bronze, which is perfectly smooth, yet does not slide in the hand when gripped. The shaft ends in an expertly crafted bronze skull, from which springs the the adamantium spear blade. A pair of imp’s wings, torn from the back of one of the foul creatures, have been magically turned to iron and shaped into the duom’s reverse blades. The Whispered Queen’s eye, plucked from her own head, is mounted between the two wings. Likewise her hand, cut from her own arm, clutches the duom’s shaft just below the spear blade. Though it has been severed for years, it still bleeds profusely. Any blood which falls from it, however, disappears shortly after it touches the ground.
Not much is known about the early life of the woman for whom this weapon was named. She was always shrouded in mystery, and what was known of her has now been lost to the mists of time. What people do know are the titles she earned for herself. Vecna’s Heartfelt Voice, The Blind Empress, the Whispered Queen, Lady of the Ascent–Warmisstress Wallcraft. From her granite throne at center of the Citadel of the Seed, she ruled over the known world with an iron fist for a thousand years. Though it has been centuries since the end of her rule, there are few more terrifying figures in history than she. Perhaps even more so, now that she sits at the right hand of the god she served so well.
It is said that the Whispered Queen was chosen at a young age by Vecna himself. That he groomed her, and guided her to usurp the leadership of his religion from her long forgotten predecessor. That when she stood over the bloody corpse, she turned the knife on herself, and cut out her eyes and her left hand in honor of her god.
The followers of Vecna–those few who still remain–know the story to be a little less dramatic. The Whispered Queen did usurp leadership of the Cult of Vecna from the former leader, and in doing so, obtained both The Hand and The Eye. The removal of her own hand and eye were a gesture of faith, yes, but it was also necessary for her to affix the powerful artifacts to her own body. And she only removed one eye, as the other had been lost during her youth. But even the faithful do not know that tale.
After gaining control the Cult of Vecna, The Whispered Queen took her severed hand and eye, and forged them into one of the most magnificent weapons the world has ever seen. Working with her companions, including master tactician Kisteer Forktongue, The Whispered Queen systematically conquered kingdom after kingdom with ruthless efficiency. Often neighboring nations were completely unaware that their ally had been conquered until the forces of Vecna were on their own doorstep. The world fell before her might, and her empire lasted a thousand years.
But all empires must fall. The Whispered Queen finally met her end at the hands of upstart peasants, and Wallcraft’s Offering was seemingly lost to the ages.
What is not commonly known is that one of the peasants who defeated the Whispered Queen, a paladin named Toryan, tried to destroy the vile weapon, but could not. No fire would smelt it, no axe would sunder it, no hammer could even dull its razor edge. At a loss for options, she gathered together three dozen other paladins from her order, and they traveled deep into the wilderness. When they reached a suitable place, they all dug together for nine days, and placed the spear in a sealed adamantium box, upon which they placed powerful wards against evil and divination–hoping to keep its location hidden from the god of secrets himself.
The 37 paladins then buried the box again, and vowed to dedicate their lives to its protection. They settled there, and built a small farming community on the ground above their ward. Generations have passed, and the community has grown to a small town of 300 people. Most know nothing of their town’s founders, or of their town’s sacred purpose. They are no longer even deep in the wilderness: civilization has spread out around them, and there are several other communities nearby. Only the twelve town elders, and the town’s High Cleric know of the secret beneath the earth, and even they know only that a great evil rests there which must be protected.
But centuries have passed, and the magical protections have begun to weaken…
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